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Trusting a new partner after an abusive relationship - experiences/advice please(8 Posts)
Trying not to make this too long but about 7 years ago I left a very abusive (mainly emotionally) marriage. Since then I haven't had a serious relationship, have had two relationships that were ok but fairly superficial from the start so I didn't feel as if I had to invest much trust in them. Now, despite not looking for someone, I've met a new man and we've been going out for 3 months. He's absolutely lovely, we get on like a house on fire and he likes dd (they haven't seen each other much but when they have he's been great to her) and he's very understanding about what I can and can't do because I'm a lone parent (ie not many nights out, not much spontaneity etc). It's become quite clear we're both falling for each other. But because this is my first serious relationship since exh something's niggling in the back of my mind, that feeling that it could happen again.
Think the crux is that I feel I have to be extremely 'on my guard' in case I've picked yet another one that will seem nice at first but turn out to be a twat really. Being logical it doesn't seem hideously likely, I'm a lot older (debatably wiser) than when I met exh and, if I'm honest with myself, exh was a twat when I met him but I was so young and naive I focused only on the 'nice' bits and excused everything he did wrong as being due to his abusive parents. It still doesn't erase the doubt I have, especially as anyone I let deeply into my life has the potential to affect dd.
I've read up about EA and 'red flags' and the only ones new man even comes near to ticking are about expressing strong feelings quickly, but it's only been in the last few weeks that he's talked about the future together (as in wishing he could wake up with me, not suggesting marriage) and how much he likes me (not said the 'L' word yet though). He could be seen as 'tight' at a stretch I suppose but is on a fairly low income like me and has always offered to pay his way/go dutch etc without whipping out a calculator. He doesn't have many friends but has spent years dealing with social anxiety and gets on well with the friends he does have and with strangers.
He's very nice to other women, never any hint of putting me down or being violent, doesn't have 'two faces' (the opposite of warning signs I've read) but I'm still finding it hard having that voice at the back of my mind warning me that he could be covering up a more sinister personality. He's very quiet and I've never seen him angry or had an argument with him (although I've seen him irritated once or twice, not at me, but only known because he said he was irritated, not because he actually got angry), which maybe makes it worse, maybe he seems too good to be true. He doesn't try to seem perfect though, quite happily points out his own faults (without me feeling he's 'warning' me of them), so I don't want to condemn him just because he's too nice!
Sorry this is so long, but hoping for experience from others who've had a 'normal' relationship after abuse, how to trust someone who seems lovely but still watch for subtle signs in case they're not.
I think you need to relax.
I've never met an abusive man thankfully, so maybe my radar is set high - who knows.
So I really can't offer you personal insight.
Surely you just have to see how it goes? It's tempting to allow your past to cast a shadow over any new relationship. It's one thing being ^aware*- it's another doubting every man from Day 1 and then possibly behaving in ways that make it all a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Isn't it really very simple?
A "bad" man is one who makes you feel bad about yourself by being too critical, you feel endangered by him in some way, he is aggressive, prone to mood swings so you never know where you stand, or just utterly self-absorbed.
Everyonehas a it of al of these in them some days perhaps.
Relationships are all about risk. You've got to suck it and see.
Thanks for the reply strawberry jelly, think I'd like some sort of 'crystal ball' guarantee of what will happen with nm in future but I know I can't have it. Know what you mean about a self-fulfilling prophecy, glad it's been so long since exh - think I have enough of a handle on my past not to 'push' nm into treating me badly, just got to get a lid on feeling suspicious.
You're right though, it's all a big risk and it might end next week for any reason for all I know, maybe venting it on here makes it easier to remember that. At the moment he doesn't fulfil any aspect of that definition of a "bad" man so am glad of that!
On the whole, WC, he sounds nice. I've just got out of a 10 year abusive relationship, and no where near thinking of starting a new relationship, but nothing you have described sets off any alarms with my hyper-bastardometer!
Take it slow, you seem to be conscious of the potential signs, so are going into this with your eyes wide open. It IS only 3m, so still early days, but well outside the inordinately hasty whirlwind stuff abusers usually adopt.
Sounds OK so far love - does he pass the friends test too? does he like your friends? family?
SJ, abusive men are NOT at all simple to spot to those vulnerable, or unaware of what to look for. the criticism starts at level, or not quite so enthusiastic a response as you'd have expected, it starts that subtly. Slowly and imperceptibly builds until before you know it you are totally doubting your ability to breathe in and out!
I was massively wary of my NM after I came out of my EA relationship. We met not long after I'd ended things with abusive ex and I spent the first six months of the new relationship shitting myself basically. I was on super red high alert for the tiniest red flag and I think if he had displayed even the tiniest hint of red flag behaviour, I would have run and never looked back.
Luckily, he never has, but I exhausted myself mentally being on the constant look out, second guessing every nice thing he did for me, reading paranoid motives into completely benign behaviour...
Counselling helped me chill out, as did pure blind faith that this man was not an abusive asshole and was actually A Nice Guy.
The main thing for me though was being able to trust myself and trust my radar. Once I knew that if he turned out to be abusive, I was a strong enough person to leave, I could relax a bit more because I knew that I would always have my back IYSWIM?
Glad it's not setting off your bastardometer HH, am hoping mine's working but it hasn't been tested much so not really sure! Am forcing myself to take metaphorical deep breaths all the time and take it slow, am really falling for him but my personality has recurring patterns of 'go mad for something then go off it' so have to give it time to ride that out first . He's only met two of my friends so far but one of those is my closest friend and she thinks he's lovely, if anything she thinks I'll be the one to mistreat him (only meant jokily though). He's very shy around new people still but really made an effort with them and thinks they're lovely too. He hasn't met my family but think that's a long way off, fair few issues with them being quite NPD (that's a whole other thread tbh), I love them but they're not very supportive of me at the best of times so wouldn't trust their judgement and would understand if he didn't warm to them.
You've described exactly what it was like with exh - although in hindsight the signs were there he had the classic habit of overdoing the nice act whenever the abuse got too much and it got so hard to even know what was 'real' or normal anymore.
Thanks mw, I've had 6 sessions of counselling in the past but can't get anymore on the nhs atm and can't afford to pay for some myself but it definitely helped (I used to feel so vulnerable and expect that exh would come back/muck up my life at every minute). Would be quite happy to ditch nm the moment I felt he was abusive but my main worry is either how bad I'll feel that the good thing went wrong again or, worse, getting down the line and being married to him before seeing the signs. Definitely need to trust myself that I 'have my back' more.
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